Energy In A Tight Space

Our yoga practices have the potential to deepen calm and tranquility as they strengthen energy, curiosity and investigation. Things progress on the path when both are brought into balance. Without calm and tranquility, the energy released in the practice has the potential to become states of anxiety and aggravation. You may have experienced this in a practice that is a bit too amped up. When the vigor is not balanced with steadiness, we can leave the yoga classroom worse off then when we entered!

In meditation practice there is a state called the ‘sinking mind’. It’s a kind of mental ooze that happens when we drift off from our focus. We become a bit passive and sleepy. This kind of mental state arises in asana practice as well. Sometimes we catch ourselves going through the motions without a lot of juice behind it. We are moving the body, but not really in the room. The mind is drifting and body disengaged.

To work with these states, we have structure and form in practice. Form exists because it helps. In the yoga, we have the silent repetition of breath count that gives form and structure to the practice. When the mind goes into mental ooze, the refocusing on the count of the breath can bring energy and vibrancy to the practice.

In yoga classes, I often see a play of the opposite state - excess of energy as opposed to sinking mind. It is really important for long time practitioners of vigorous yoga styles to check out point of focus and quality of energy in the practice. A few years back I noticed my own tendency to let the repetition of the breath count dominate the forefront of my consciousness in practice. I noticed that I was not experiencing the FEELING of the breath and losing the spacious awareness that the practice brings. The excess of energy felt hard and contracting - like too much energy in a tight space. At that point in time, I was also beginning a regular mindfulness meditation practice with less focus on mental noting and more space. In meditation practice, I let myself just open. I felt the sense of the expansive sky. The focus became more about spacious awareness of my breath. I let myself feel. I craved a similar experience in asana practice, so I spent a few months experimenting with allowing the breath count to act as a quiet backdrop rather than the dominant point of focus in yoga class. I let feeling of the breath hold prominence in my asana practice.

I remember that it was really hard at first, like muscle I had never used. A muscle that stepped back and felt something as opposed to constantly naming and being in control. The effect was profound. I felt steadiness and ease and began to fall in love with the experience of space.

This experience has become one of the most beneficial and enjoyable aspects of my daily practice. I practice asana with breath count and often focus on silent repetition of phrases in meditation, but I let FEELING of the breath come into the forefront of my consciousness and the count is like a quiet backdrop to support my focus. Occasionally the hard energy of a forceful count will push it’s way to front of my mind. On those days of excessive energy, I pull back from mental noting and focus more on feeling.

Play with these practices in your asana and meditation practice. If you are coming at it too hard, pull back and let yourself feel sensation of breath. If your mind is going into the ooze, refocus on breath count or mental noting and you may find yourself back in balance.

Lesley Desaulniers